How to Conquer the Blank Page

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You’ve been staring at it four hours, and the infuriating little cursor just keeps blinking at you, taunting you, mocking you as it appears and disappears on your screen. You know in your heart that words must spill over, and that the damned cursor must be pushed farther and farther along the page by the words you write, not a single one comes out.

The beginning is always the hardest, isn’t it? You’ve got that story down pat on your head. You’ve finished your novel and killed off as many characters as your black heart could kill, but when you sit down to actually write that novel, nothing would come out.

Dear heavens, it happens to me every single time. All you people who experience the same agony, raise your hands up! (But read first). In my mind, my heart, and my very soul, The Lost Chronicles of Eden is done. I’ve killed some, saved some, maimed some, but dude, every stinking time I sit down to actually write the story that demands to be written, I cannot. I cannot. I CANNOT. /slasheswrist

But we can do this! Lots of veteran (and not-so-veteran, like me) writers have a lot of advise, and if you Google ‘how to start writing’, you’d get a thousand results in less than a two seconds (depending on the speed of your Internet connection—mine sucks, if you must know). They’ve shared lots, and but I also want to share with you what works best for me.

WHAT WOULD HELP YOU BEGIN?

My professor called it ‘pressure writing’, because you’re going to write under pressure. (THANKS A LOT, GENIUS.) No, really

The thing is, in pressure writing, you will be required to write anything and everything that will come to your mind about a particular topic within a specified timeframe, usually 3-5 minutes. And because you’re operating on limited time, you don’t get the chance to think much about the topic, you just have to let the thoughts flow freely from your mind to your hand.  You also don’t have the chance to judge—your thoughts or your words. The aim of the exercise is to tap into your subconscious and force you to practically vomit all the thoughts in your head without discrimination, without judgment, without restraint.

See, your conscious mind is super judgmental. It feels like it knows everything, so it makes you criticize your work even before you start doing it. The purpose of this exercise is to let your subconscious mind, which holds all things wonderful and amazing and spectacular, to come out.

There are several ways to approach pressure writing, and I’ll share a few with you.

Listing

  • The things you wrote might not make sense, but there is a reason you thought of them. Using your conscious mind now, try to piece the concepts together.
  • Stop when the timer sounds off. You’ll notice that your hands are cramped, and you would feel like taking in a huge breath, but you’ll notice that your mind’s a little less cluttered and you feel a bit more relaxed. If not, repeat process (time yourself again), until you’re comfortable with what you’ve spilled on the paper.
  • For the next three minutes, you will have to list down anything and everything that comes to your mind when you think about love. I don’t care of you thought of Paris, or your cat, or a banana, or even a freaking troll—WRITE IT DOWN.
  • Think of a particular topic, concept, object, place, person—ANYTHING—that you wish to write about, or is a part of what you’re aiming to write about.
    •  EX: LOVE (so overrated)

Free-writing or free-falling

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  • Think of a particular topic, concept, object, place, person—ANYTHING—that you wish to write about, or is a part of what you’re aiming to write about.
    • EX: HOME (so I can’t think of anything, what?)
  • FALL! FALL! FALL UNTO THE PAPER! Write in endless paragraph form. Follow the stream of your thoughts and write everything and anything that come to mind. Don’t punctuate. Don’t dot your Is. Don’t cross your Ts. Don’t edit, don’t erase, just write.

EX:

home what is home home is where the heart is oh my gosh that sounds so cliche but i must do it because dude i must give the readers an example on how to do this so i must not edit i must not erase typographical errors what do you mean i dunno home is like here at home im at home wiht my momma on the other room and i just watched americas next top model and monika didn’t win and thats ok but not really because home what about home if i’m going to write about home what shall i say perhaps oh yes cielos is the home of my characters but no not really not everyone lives in cielos because some of them lives in

Ok, I have to stop. Unrestrained, I would probably reveal everything about the plot, and then what would happen to Alliances? Spoiled because I couldn’t keep my mind shut when I free-fall.

There’s a lot more I can say about pressure writing. I teach it in my Writing Seminars, most especially in the module The Heart of Ink, where I would teach my students how to get into the heart of their writing. (A word: I have not yet held this seminar without anyone crying).

I don’t do listing much anymore, but I free-write almost everyday. It’s a form of release when I write in my journal, and a form of tapping into the psyche of my character when I want to create their profiles. It’s also a form of healing when I am angry, and a form of literary suicide when I am sad. (Warning: A lot of buried things come out in free-writing. Be brave to confront your demons when you do this).

Do these things and let me know via comments below or email (karrenrenzsena@gmail.com) if they worked for you!

 

PS 1: Journey with me into writing! Let’s try to muddle through the murky waters of the world of writing and literature. Let’s beat literary constipation. Let’s write beautiful words. Also, subscribe to my blog so you can get updates and tips on how to write beautiful words every week!

PS 2: Are you from the Philippines? Come July, I will be holding a seminar-workshop on writing called Write That Right Now! How to Stop Dreaming About Writing and Actually Start Writing. If you want to learn more about the workshop, drop me an inquiry at projectbeautifulwords@gmail.com. Here are a few other topics and activities that we’ll be having in our semianar:

  • Hold It! Basics Before Book! (Stuff You Need to Know If You Want to be the Next Bestseller)
    • 5 Pillars of Writing
    • Cardinal Rules of Writing
  • Onwards, Slave of the Word! (Getting Down to the Art of Writing)
    • The Beginning Is Always the Hardest (Barreling Through the Writer’s Block)
    • #DigDeep (Getting Into the Heart of Writing)
      • Cutting Scars Open
      • Beating Demons Dead
      • Picking Pieces of Broken Dreams
    • “We’ll Never Go Out of Style” (Finding Your Style)
    • Spunk, Sass, Sarcastic, Sober, Solemn… Whatever Works (Finding Your Voice)
  • Sensational Closing (Bringing Home the Fat Bacon)
    • Really, Why Are You Here?
    • What Do You Really Want to Write?
  • AND MANY MORE!
  • With BONUS — Soul Pages: Writing That Heals

Interested? Well, you have to be, because I can only entertain a certain number of participants so I can monitor more progress more closely. Email us at projectbeautifulwords@gmail.com for more details.

Photos © their respective owners; taken via Pixabay